By; PATRICK TITUS, Uyo
Association of Women Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (ASWHAN), Akwa Ibom State chapter has appealed to Governor Udom Emmanuel to give assent to the Anti-Stigmatisation and Discrimination Bill recently passed into Law by the State House of Assembly.
The State Coordinator of ASWHAN, Mrs. Rachael Raphael made the call in a goodwill message she presented at the event marking this year’s World AIDS Day in Uyo, the state capital on Wednesday.
She said that the call became necessary in order to give them a sense of belonging, stressing that the people living with HIV/ AIDS in the have discriminated against at both social and public life in the state, including employment into the state civil service.
Mrs. Raphael said that the Bill if assented to by the Governor and implemented in the state would not only give ASWHAN members and others living with the virus a priding place in their varous communities and career but also would assist the State to achieve the vision of ending HIV/AIDS in 2030.
She also appealed more support and funding to Akwa Ibom State Agency for the Control of AIDS (AKSACA) in other to facilitate its programmes on the epidemic control in the state.
“I want to humbly appeal to the state governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel to please sign into law the HIV/AIDS Ant-Stigmatisation and Discrimination Bill recently passed into law by State House of Assembly, but now waiting his assent.
“I am appealing for more funding from the state government and partners to AKSACA to enable the Agency carry out its programmes on ending the HIV AIDS pandemic in the state,” the ASWHAN State’s Coordinator stated.
In her reaction also, the State Coordinator of the Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), Mrs. Elizabeth Udo who thanked donor agencies for being of tremendous help to those living with HIV AIDS in the state, wondered how the condition of the people would have been if the agencies had not supported to give life through free medication, testing and counseling as well as other forms of assistance to the affected.
She added, “it is high time, the state government rose to the responsibility of putting more funds in AKSACA to enable its meet the daunting challenges of HIV AIDS response and control, because after donor agencies, what next?”
NEPWHAN Co-ordinator, who also expressed worry over the delay by the state governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel to sign the States Anti-stigma bill into law, said until the bill is assented to, there would still be discrimination against people living with HIV AIDS.
The Project Manager of AKSACA, Dr Author Igbemi who also commended the state government and donor agencies for being passionate in the wellbeing of People Living with HIV/AIDS in the state, called for hands to be on deck to end the pandemic for a safer society.
Igbemi advised against all forms of discrimination against people living with HIV AIDS, and pleaded for positive mindset and love towards them, stressing that “until this is done, HIV/AIDS will still be with us.”
Speaking earlier during a press conference in Uyo to mark the World AIDS Day in the state, representative of the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, Dr Idayat Uthman stressed the need to have the right policy environment, correct strategy framework and right system including health, community and other supporting system in Nigeria if the nation must get it right.
She said that although the federal government has commenced incremental payment for the treatment of Nigerians living with HIV using domestic resources at 17 per cent vs 83 per cent program resource contribution between the government and donors respectively but there are still some funding gaps that the country needs to address as the nation’s progress towards epidemic control.
“There is urgent need for States to redeem their commitments to release 0.5 to 1.0 per cent of their Federal Monthly Allocations to support the HIV response in their States. For example, States should invest more in the procurement of HIV test kits as part of their counterpart contributions.
“This will go a long way towards halting the decline of HIV positive pregnant women accessing PMTCT services. Nigeria government needs to stop viewing healthcare as a consumption good. Health is a sensible investment, a nation’s source of wealth,” she said.
The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day is End inequalities, End AIDS. End pandemic is to highlight on the new strategic direction for ending AIDS
But in Nigeria, it is captured as “End inequality, End AIDS through sustainable financing.”